Running notes from UK head coach John Calipari are below. First, three videos of player interviews from Media Day. We will continue to have coverage from Media Day throughout the day.
Ten minutes before Calipari speaks, all four rows (12 seats each) are filled with media members and an extra row of 15 cameras are set up in the back. I’d take a quick guess that nearly 100 people are here. Or, every media member in Kentucky. (And, a few national writers — Gary Parrish of CBS, Mike DeCourcy of Sporting News and Dana O’Neil of ESPN.)
Calipari said Michael Kidd-Gilchrist’s starting point is the same as DeAndre Liggins’ ending point, in terms of inspiring a practice and being vocal.
Clarifying his “players-first” stance, Calipari says “during the season, it’s about the team. The moment our season ends, it’s about those players.”
Calipari reiterated his goals for the season: highest GPA in the country, highest APR in the country, win a national championship, get five players drafted.
Calipari: “If I was just about winning championships, I would tell players to come back. I just don’t do it that way.”
Calipari on his style of recruiting: “At the end of the day, 10 years from now, we’ll see how it played out. I know how it’s playing out now. We’re winning a lot of games.”
Calipari calls this team “unconventional” because of the position flexibility of nearly every player. This lead Calipari to change how he wants the team to run the fast break. Instead of running people to the rim, he runs everyone out wide. “We have three “4s” who think they are “2s,” not “5s.”
Calipari said he meant “no disrespect” to Louisville with his comments a week ago saying UK is the Commonwealth’s team.
Is it tough to be a players-first program in a state that’s so program-centric? “It will be as long as I’m coach.”
Calipari says he wants Terrence Jones to have the mentality that he is the best player on UK. Tell the freshmen they’re good, but not as good as him. Because he’s been through it before.
Calipari extended an open invitation to Rajon Rondo and Nazr Mohammed to be coaches and work toward their degrees this season.
Calipari touts Kyle Wiltjer’s hook shot. I’ve seen it in action. It is sweeeeeeet.
UK has six or seven starters, but Calipari will start the “most consistent” ones, regardless of seniority.
Calipari: “I have no idea” how fast this team will come together. Last season, Calipari says, it was February.
Calipari has told Vargas and Poole that they can be better and get into the rotation in the 8/9 range. But, it’s up to them to earn it.
UK may not have a lot of bulk in the big guys, but “that length? Ooh. That quickness? Ooh.”
Calipari’s main concern: “We’re very young again.” What he likes most: Athleticism and length.
Calipari: Dominican experience is leading him to seriously explore more pick-and-roll for this UK team.
Cal, talk about having another freshmen point guard? “Torture. Early on, he’s going to turn the ball over and take bad shots.” Calipari also says he has to make sure Teague, who is a physical player, stays out of foul trouble.
On what the difference in the NCAA tournament can be: Having a swagger, or having that one player who can take over a game. Calipari has talked before about how UK has a swagger about it.
Calipari: “They tell me Marquis Teague is the best in the weight room of any freshmen I’ve had.” And he’s coachable, stares Calipari in the eye when he’s talking.
UK will have a dress rehearsal for Big Blue Madness tonight.
Calipari on Enes Kanter finally being able to play in Rupp for Big Blue All Stars: “That’s great for him.”
Calipari says he’s not trying to be a lightning rod or spark controversy. “I just work here at the University of Kentucky and coach my team. That seems to aggravate some people.”
Calipari says his players are loyal, and exemplified by one-and-dones staying through the end of the year and finishing classes even when they know they are guaranteed a top-5 pick.
Calipari says NBA lockout won’t be that big of a help to college basketball’s prominence. Says they are “two different sets of fans,” and that he doesn’t think lockout will “last that much longer.”
Good thing about NBA players coming to Lexington? UK guys gets to see how hard those NBA stars — Rondo, Durant — work. And, how leadership works, such as Nazr bringing entire OKC team into Lexington.
It’s not my system that makes us win. It’s good players who play together.